Wednesday, August 22, 2007

HOSPITALS: Still blessed after all these years!

I guess I'm a little different from some of the mega-church pastors in that I still love to visit the hospitals every week. I say that because I’ve heard that some of the guys who lead large congregations like ours (we have almost 14,000 members) have gotten to a place where their schedule doesn’t include hospital visitation on a regular basis.

Of course, I’m not in town every week because of Mission Trips, vacation, or other meetings, but when I’m in town, Wednesday afternoon is my time to visit the two main hospitals in Tyler. (My main mentor, Jim Henry, the long-time pastor of FBC Orlando continued this practice throughout his ministry.)

For me, it’s not a burden, it’s a blessing. Today I visited a real hero, Joe Fritcher, who is one of the ever-shrinking group of Pearl Harbor survivors. It was an honor for me to visit him and pray for him. I felt as if I was in the presence of greatness. His humble acceptance of whatever God has in store for him blessed my heart beyond description.

I visited Ruth Overton, a precious lady who is nearing her home-going-to-heaven time. I was at her side when her husband unexpectedly committed suicide 15 years ago and since that time she has occupied a special place in my heart. Her daughter, Linda, is bearing the burden of caring for her mom, and her mildly retarded sister, Carol. As I hugged her today she asked me to hug her just a little longer. She is a brave lady who is carrying more than any person should have to bear alone. But as she smiled bravely at me, I knew that she knew that she wasn’t alone. Her strength amazed me.

I cried and prayed with Peggy Gipson and her family today. Her husband, Dale, suffered a terrible injury when the all-terrain vehicle he was riding fell into a creek due to the rain-saturated ground. His spinal chord was severed, and if he survives, there’s the possibility that he’ll be paralyzed. Peggy looked at me and told me she was ready for whatever happens – her tremendous faith reminded me that I am sometimes lacking in that kind of mustard seed faith.

There were others that I won’t mention. But for me, visiting these precious people gives me humility, strength, and faith. They blessed me more than I could have ever blessed them! Thank you, God for allowing me to be a part of their lives!